Why does my drumming improve when I practice with headphones on?

Muns

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Just retuned to playing after years off. Never practiced with over the ear headphones years ago. Today I have some relatively inexpensive bluetooth headphones. When I practices with them on (vs speakers or just no music) my drumming improves. Even the backing track seem slightly slower...?
Odd but true.
 

Muns

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Welcome to DFO.

To answer your question, you can't hear yourself.

Heck, I'm kidding. I have no idea.
Ha!
Wonder of it's related to this speculation?:

"...headphones are giving you better high-frequency response and better isolation from room noise than your speakers are, so your higher-frequency percussion and rhythmic instrument transients (which I'd guess are subdivided more finely than, say, your kick drums) are becoming more subjectively audible. Following the above rule of thumb (more subdivision = slower perceived speed), the track sounds slower in headphones than on speakers."

No matter - just an interesting and happy coincidence!
 

CC Cirillo

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Hello, Muns!

I’m mostly self-taught and learned a lot by playing along with the radio using headphones. During Covid, I started that practice again after decades of only playing with live musicians.

I noticed a similar anomaly. Then it hit me: I think I sound better for a few reasons---One is the headphones equalize everything. All overtones are gone and the kit sounds close-mic’d and perfect, much like the kits in so many of the recordings I admire.

The other effect, I think, is purely psychological. Let’s say I’m playing along to Bernard Purdie with Steely Dan. Well, I’m hearing Bernard Purdie in my headphones and not much me. Bernard’s pretty good at the Purdie shuffle. I am not. He’s carrying me along with him providing perfectly placed and balanced tempo, feel, and ghost notes. I am, probably, not.

What I do is listen, play along, then turn off the music and play alone attempting to lock the feel without the crutch. I do this both with hearing protection, and then a bit without so I can hear the overtones, etc. Then I take a quick snapshot recording on my phone of just the groove portion of the song. Do I sound anything even close to the drummer on the recording?

Regarding tempo, I too notice that a lot of songs I’ve heard for years sound, well, slower, up close and personal. I think it’s not as much the song as I’m probably, on the whole, pushing the beat, not necessarily rushing, but playing a little more forward than the drummer on the recording did. So, again, I take that feedback and work with it, work against my tendency, which, with a little luck, is making me better.

As far as the recording being slower, if you are saying that tongue in cheek, well I’m with you on that---I have a lot of defective metronomes that always rush the tempo.
 
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Muns

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Hi CC - I have some hearing damage so I suspect the reduced overtones with the headphones just helps reduce "noise". Yes - playing along with track it's easy to lean on the recording - I do the same as far as listening/playing then going alone. I need to start recording myself to really get an appreciation of how I'm doing. Thanks for the insights!
 

Piggpenn

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Hello, Muns!

I’m mostly self-taught and learned a lot by playing along with the radio using headphones. During Covid, I started that practice again after decades of only playing with live musicians.

I noticed a similar anomaly. Then it hit me: I think I sound better for a few reasons---One is the headphones equalize everything. All overtones are gone and the kit sounds close-mic’d and perfect, much like the kits in so many of the recordings I admire.

The other effect, I think, is purely psychological. Let’s say I’m playing along to Bernard Purdie with Steely Dan. Well, I’m hearing Bernard Purdie in my headphones and not much me. Bernard’s pretty good at the Purdie shuffle. I am not. He’s carrying me along with him providing perfectly placed and balanced tempo, feel, and ghost notes. I am, probably, not.

What I do is listen, play along, then turn on the music and play alone attempting to lock the feel without the crutch. I do this both with hearing protection, and then a bit without so I can hear the overtones, etc. Then I take a quick snapshot recording on my phone of just the groove portion of the song. Do I sound anything even close to the drummer on the recording?

Regarding tempo, I too notice that a lot of songs I’ve herd for years sound, well, slower, up close and personal. I think it’s not as much the song as I’m probably, on the whole, pushing the beat, not necessarily rushing, but playing a little more forward than the drummer on the recording did. So, again, I take that feedback and work with it, work against my tendency, which, with a little luck, is making me better.

As far as the recording being slower, if you are saying that tongue in cheek, well I’m with you on that---I have a lot of defective metronomes that always rush the tempo.

Man you really nailed it. I was being a S A$$ in my first post so to Muns I apologize but reading your post, very insightful makes you think. I especially like how you describe your drums while wearing headphones. I couldn't have said it better and for those that don't experience what you describe really are missing out. I enjoy practicing with ear protection and my drums are very harsh if I play right after removing them. Good post!!!
 


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